Mana, Maori alliance 'unlikely'

By Lawrence Gullery

A political commentator believes Maori voters will take the chance to "unseat" the National government at next year's election by investing their support with the Labour Party.

Wairoa mayoral candidate Derek Fox said he had expected Labour's Meka Whaitiri to win the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election at the weekend and for there to be a low voter turnout, 35.8 per cent.

The general election next year would be a "different kettle of fish", he said.

"... and the majority of Maori voters in the Maori seats will be looking to unseat the present government and that will mean voting Labour and no doubt Labour will be campaigning for their two votes, electorate and party."

Mr Fox unsuccessfully challenged for the Ikaroa-Rawhiti seat in 2008 under the Maori Party banner, running second place to Labour's Parekura Horomia by 1609 votes. Mr Horomia died in April, prompting the by-election.

Ms Whaitiri, Whakatu, posted a 1761 majority ahead of her nearest rival Mana Party's Te Hamua Nikora.

Maori Party's Na Raihania, Bridge Pa, and Green Party's Marama Davidson followed.

"The battle was always going to be for second spot. I realised that Te Hamua Nikora was going to be an appealing candidate to young and disaffected voters and Na Raihania has paid the price for the clumsy and public dispute around the Maori Party leadership; and also because of government policies detrimental to Maori and the Maori Party's closeness to National." Mr Fox said it was interesting to note the combined Mana and Maori party votes were higher than Labour's.

"... but I'm not sure how much to read into that because this is a by-election after all and many Labour people will have been expecting Meka to win."

He said it would be difficult to see an avenue where Mana and Maori parties could join forces to contest next year's election.

"In terms of working together, the reason the two are separate is because they couldn't park their egos at the door, and any likely merger talks could face more leadership problems all of which will further annoy and frighten supporters.

"Even though this by-election is really a first past the post election, in other words Na Raihania was up for election as a candidate and there was no second vote for the Maori or any other party, I believe there was a message to the Maori Party leaders that some of their former supporters are hoha with them and they've gone somewhere else, or simply stayed home."

Mr Fox said there would be "residual support" for Ms Whaitiri because she was the sitting Labour MP. People may see her as Mr Horomia's protege or successor. "But mostly Labour will have to at least enunciate policies that will deal with Maori poverty, poor housing, poor health outcomes, poor educational outcomes, badly skewered unemployment and imprisonment figures all of which mean Maori in Ikaroa-Rawhiti have a far lower standard of living as other people in the general electorates that cover the same area."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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